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Retail

 I was talking with a friend the other morning about the strategy of a struggling retailer.

You could see his head shake, even over the phone.  “They’re getting eaten alive by Amazon in e-com, and Wal-mart’s taking away the low-end in chunks” he said.  “And they certainly can’t go premium.”

Yikes.   Another brand caught in the middle.    Two monsters below, and price resistance above.

Hmmm . . .

Maybe they can go premium.   Especially if we consider a new definition of the term.   

Most of the time, the words “premium” or “upscale” are used to describe an elevated  price point and a luxurious  customer experience.    Premium retailers sell more expensive goods.   They also offer such wonders as concierge-level service, discreet-yet- fashionable technology, and soap in the bathrooms. 

But maybe – just maybe – the new definition of premium retailing has less to do with luxury, and more to do with creating additional customer value  . . . the kind of value that creates lasting stickiness to the brand.

There’s a little independent running shoe store down the street that might be a poster child for this new definition of premium.   It’s maybe 2000 square feet.   Thin industrial carpet on the floor. 

The little running shoe store offers a standard good-better-best assortment of shoes, running apparel, and some new technology-based wizardry: a computer-aided analysis of your stride.   

Overall, quite nice, but not fancy.  Not “upscale” by any stretch of the imagination.

But the little running shoe store does more.  They recognize that what their customers really want to buy goes well beyond shoes, shorts, and gear.    They really want to buy 20 less pounds and a smaller dress size.  They really want to buy lower blood sugar levels.   They really want to buy new friends.  They really want to buy the pride of completing a marathon.  Or the high of a great workout.    

And so they organize  runs.  Walks.  Events.  Meets.  Gatherings.   Their product is an orchestration of the SKUs and services (stride analysis) and interest-centric activities, all under the brand banner of the little running shoe store.

Premium?  You bet.  Scalable to the big guys? 

I don’t think there’s a choice.

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